A rare blend of quality poet and musician par excellence Kazi Nazrul Islam believed in gender equality and that ‘art is for people’. He launched a vigorous assault on extremism and dogmatism.
After the conquest of Bengal by the Muslims in 1201, Muslim immigrants of Turkish, Iranian and Arab descent migrated to Bengal in large numbers and assimilated with the natives through inter-marriages. Turkish, Arabic and Persian words entered the Bengali language. Kazi Nazrul Islam welcomed the use of Urdu, Persian and Arabic words and expression in Bengali, the language, which now ranks fifth among the languages spoken worldwide.
Jahehda Begum singing the poet's 'Koto Jug Jeno Dekhini'
Nazrul Islam, who had appeared on the Bengali literary scene as a ‘comet’, profusely used both new Arabic and Persian words and succeeded in creating a wonderful poetic rhythm. His use of alliteration and assonance got Bengali and non-Bengali words merged into a phonic synthesis. As an epoch-making poet, he had perfect mastery over the rhythm of the language.
Nazrul Islam wrote and composed music for nearly 3000 songs, collectively known as Nazrul Geeti (Nazrul songs) that continue to live in the hearts of the 200 million strong Bengali populace. His vibrancy of intellect and golden voice still inspire youths. He also wrote several novels, short stories.
His works reveals three powerful themes – love, Muslim renaissance and the awakening of the common man. Nazrul Islam depicted human love in ‘Vadhanhara’ (Free of Bonds) and in ‘Vidrohi’ he voiced his reaction to the want of love and fairness in society.
In his songs, poems and articles Nazrul Islam inspired Muslims to rise up and fight for freedom against colonial rule by the British in India. His writings roused anger of the British government that proscribed his works on various occasions as well as twice sentenced him to rigorous imprisonment.
Nazrul Islam also yearned and inspired peasants and workers against exploiters to establish their own rights. In his long poem ‘Samyavad’ (Equality) he speaks for his love of poor and deprived classes and demands for a society free of exploitation and oppression. Enthused with Islamic egalitarian ideology Nazrul Islam longed to erase divisions in society on account of differences in religions and sects and assailed fanaticism in religion.
Born into abject poverty, Nazrul Islam turned into a rebel and chose the harsh reality around him as the theme of his verses. He wanted to transform the obsolete society into an egalitarian one.
He suffered from a brain-stroke in 1942 and his literary career came to a sudden end.